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Our God-given choices

          

We rejoice in our ability to make choices.  Every day we face decisions about countless aspects of our lives and how we interact with others.  Whether it’s what to buy, how to bring up our children, or where we work.  This freedom to choose, our God-given ‘agency’, is indeed a Divine gift from an infinitely-loving Creator.

But we should never take these freedoms for granted.  This year marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the UN.  It is, as described by the United Nations, ‘a milestone document in the history of human rights’.  Article 18 affirms:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom…to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’

Yet over three-quarters of people on earth live in nations with ‘high levels of government restrictions on freedom of religion or belief’ (source: APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief).  They may not have any option to change their religious observance, their governments may restrict access to religious material, or they may face severe persecution or even death.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands four-square with individuals and organisations who seek to defend and enhance freedom of religion or belief.  The first Latter-day Saint President, Joseph Smith, said:

‘I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.’
https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-statement-religious-freedom-pluralism

That’s why Latter-day Saints worldwide are found supporting causes that seek to uphold and expand religious freedom, at home and abroad.  In the UK, the Church is a stakeholder in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.  https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/  This is one of the most influential All-Party Groups within the UK Parliament.  The Church is also active in the European Parliament and across many legislatures.

Freedom of religion or belief really matters.  But it is under attack.  So what can we do?  

  • Become informed about the basics of religious freedom and understand your rights.
  • Have meaningful, kind conversations with those of differing beliefs.
  • Find simple ways to help protect the rights of everyone to act on their beliefs.
  • Build trusted relationships in your community among people of diverse opinions.

We can all do our part to become advocates for this freedom, one of many that we deeply cherish.

Additional resources

What is religious freedom?  What can you do?
 

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